To give potential students a sense of what Society, Technology and Values (STV) courses and the option are like, here are some comments from past students.
Thomas Price, Environment (Completed STV Option in 2016)
I’m writing this two years out from graduation in the midst of scandals surrounding Facebook and the data harvested from its systems. A lot of people have been quick to call what happened a data breach, equating it with the Equifax hacks of last year but in the end the problems stemmed from faults in the designs of Facebook’s systems. They were used as intended and yet led to the problems the company is facing today, and seemingly assisted in the interference with the United States’ diplomatic process.
As technology becomes more intertwined with our lives and we build systems where people provide greater and greater amounts of data about themselves, taking time to focus on the topics addressed in the Society, Technology, and Values courses becomes even more vital.
As creators of these systems we often focus on how the collected data can be beneficial. Yet, there’s a responsibility to safeguard information, and understanding the importance of doing so stems from realizing what could be done with it in the hands of others.
These courses will challenge how you think and the questions you will learn to ask will certainly benefit you in the years to come.
Lindsay Wolfson, Environment (Completed STV Option in 2011)
As an International Development student, I never thought I would take nor enjoy a cybernetics class. However, the Centre for Society, Technology and Values offers more than normal classes. It offers the unparalleled opportunity to learn how technology and values are all integrated into our society and from an interdisciplinary perspective. I love the unique opportunity that STV gave me to learn from outside the box.
Corey Wood, Applied Health Science (Completed STV Option in 2009)
My name is Corey Wood, I completed my undergraduate at the University of Waterloo in Health Studies and chose to add the Society, Technology and Values option in my fourth year. I graduated in 2010 and now attend a University in Wales, UK where I am working towards my MSc in Renewable Energy and Resource Management.
I worked on my STV option thesis with Dr. Campbell during my last two terms at Waterloo and thoroughly enjoyed the project. My thesis involved investigating the history of the electric vehicle in Canada.
My decision to add the STV option to my degree came when I was working towards my undergraduate in Health Studies, with the Health Informatics option. Although I found the courses within my program extremely educational and certainly worthwhile, I found my interests were changing and I began to lose motivation. During the second year of my program when I was able to select a few elective courses, I stumbled across the CSTV courses and found their descriptions interesting.
I started off taking STV 100 with Dr. Campbell and STV 202 with Andrew Deman. I realized quite quickly that I had found exactly what I was looking for in an academic setting. I found the courses to be quite dynamic and thought provoking regarding issues and objects that are encountered in every day life. The classes are built to provoke discussion and debate around topics that I had never before questioned. With technology being such a common aspect of life these days, we tend to go about using it and acknowledging it as a major benefit to us all without question. While the classes are not meant to disprove this attitude, they challenge students to question the role that technology plays within a society, and how this role is influenced by the values of the society (and vice versa). I found this to be an eye opening experience as I was now exposed to all different types of thinking and began to see the relationships between technology, society and values from different angles that I had never considered. Before long I wasn’t only enjoying the class discussions (at some points strong debates), but also continuing them with my roommates for hours after class.
The courses are not only geared toward the history of different technological advancements but also towards future applications. I found the cybernetics and biotechnology courses to be extremely interesting as these are technologies that are relatively new. The courses therefore not only allow you to look back at how the relationships between older technologies and society have developed but also question how current and future technologies will affect our societies and cultures. In the biotechnology course, I found it exciting to be debating and challenging current advancements like genetically modified crops and animals as these are issues that future policy makers will be faced with. In the cybernetics course, I enjoyed discussions regarding performance enhancing drugs and their role in professional sports. As the courses cover a wide range of information almost everyone can find something that they can relate to. In my experience, I found my interest in many Health courses to be renewed as I began to challenge myself to approach topics from different angles, using the skills developed in STV. To this day I find myself discussing some of the class topics in papers completed for my MSc Renewable Energy courses as well as bringing up class discussion topics over pints with friends at the pub.
In saying all this, I should state that this type of class is not for everyone. I enjoy classes that challenge me to question and take different perspectives on topics. Therefore, I found the STV courses to be a refreshing change from my normal biology and chemistry lessons. If you are the type of student that likes classes where there are rigid, correct answers and wrong answers, than this course might not be exactly what you are looking for. As Dr. Campbell always put it, “There’s no right answer, but there’s lots of wrong ones”. The papers and exams tend to look for critical thinking skills rather than memorized ‘facts’. I tend to feel this is an invaluable skill and the Centre for Society, Technology and Values provides the perfect setting to develop it. As Einstein said “we can’t solve problems using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”.
As for the STV option, I can honestly say it is the reason why I am in the UK studying for my Masters. In my fourth year, I began to feel like my interests were much more related to STV courses than to Health Studies, therefore I approached Dr. Campbell regarding the STV option. Dr. Campbell was great throughout the entire process. My experience with the option involved bi-monthly discussions with Dr. Campbell regarding information that I had been reading along with supplementary readings that were recommended to me. I was given the freedom to select a topic in an area that interested me as long as it could be related to something studied in a STV course. As I had been reading a lot of information regarding oil, energy and the collapse of past civilizations at the time, I knew I wanted to discuss something involving these issues. Dr. Campbell helped me narrow down my thoughts and choose a thesis, which ended up being geared towards the history of the electric car in Canada. I thoroughly enjoyed the process as I was able to work independently while having access to Dr. Campbell’s informational resources as well as his ability to play devils advocate. The information I gained throughout the process led me to my decision to continue my education in Renewable Energy, something I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have done without the influence of STV.